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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 Jun 21;113(25):6967-72. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1520527113. Epub 2016 Jun 6.

Neural mechanisms underlying the impact of daylong cognitive work on economic decisions.

Author information

1
Motivation, Brain and Behavior Team, Centre de NeuroImagerie de Recherche, Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle épinière, Hôpital de la Pitié-Salpêtrière, 75013 Paris, France; INSERM UMRS 1127, CNRS UMR 7225, Université Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris 6, 75005 Paris, France; Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne, Université Paris 1, 75013 Paris, France.
2
Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne, Université Paris 1, 75013 Paris, France.
3
Motivation, Brain and Behavior Team, Centre de NeuroImagerie de Recherche, Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle épinière, Hôpital de la Pitié-Salpêtrière, 75013 Paris, France; INSERM UMRS 1127, CNRS UMR 7225, Université Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris 6, 75005 Paris, France; mathias.pessiglione@gmail.com.

Abstract

The ability to exert self-control is key to social insertion and professional success. An influential literature in psychology has developed the theory that self-control relies on a limited common resource, so that fatigue effects might carry over from one task to the next. However, the biological nature of the putative limited resource and the existence of carry-over effects have been matters of considerable controversy. Here, we targeted the activity of the lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC) as a common substrate for cognitive control, and we prolonged the time scale of fatigue induction by an order of magnitude. Participants performed executive control tasks known to recruit the LPFC (working memory and task-switching) over more than 6 h (an approximate workday). Fatigue effects were probed regularly by measuring impulsivity in intertemporal choices, i.e., the propensity to favor immediate rewards, which has been found to increase under LPFC inhibition. Behavioral data showed that choice impulsivity increased in a group of participants who performed hard versions of executive tasks but not in control groups who performed easy versions or enjoyed some leisure time. Functional MRI data acquired at the start, middle, and end of the day confirmed that enhancement of choice impulsivity was related to a specific decrease in the activity of an LPFC region (in the left middle frontal gyrus) that was recruited by both executive and choice tasks. Our findings demonstrate a concept of focused neural fatigue that might be naturally induced in real-life situations and have important repercussions on economic decisions.

KEYWORDS:

decision-making; executive control; fMRI; fatigue; temporal discounting

PMID:
27274075
PMCID:
PMC4922197
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.1520527113
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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